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EU-China trade in facts and figures

23 September 2008
by eub2 -- last modified 23 September 2008

China is now the third biggest national exporter in the global economy after Germany and the US. China now accounts for about 8 % of all imports and 12% of all exports in world trade in goods. More than half of China's exports are currently capitalised by foreign companies. Most of this capitalisation comes from neighbouring Asian companies in Japan and South Korea. 8% of it is European.


Europe's imports from China have grown by around 21% per year for the last five years. In 2007, the EU imported €231 billion worth of goods from China. China is Europe's biggest source of manufactured imports. Two decades ago China and Europe traded almost nothing.

Europe runs a small surplus on trade in services with China - €0,93 billion (in 2007). This is 165 times smaller than its trade deficit for goods.

China is Europe's fastest growing export market. Europe exported €72 billion worth of goods to China in 2007. Exports from the EU to China grew by 75% between 2003 and 2007. Although a large consumer market is developing in China, the EU still exports more to the 7.5 million people who live in Switzerland that the 1.3 billion people who live in China.

Barriers to trade in China are estimated to cost EU businesses €21 billion in lost trade opportunities every year. That is the equivalent of the total imports of New Zealand, or the total GDP of Bulgaria. It is one third of current EU exports to China.

Intellectual property rights theft remains a huge problem for European businesses in China. Almost 60% of all counterfeit goods seized at European borders in 2006 came from China

China say that they been the victim of IPR violations. In 2007, European manufacturers estimated that IPR theft cost them 20% of their potential revenues in China.

Europe's trade deficit with China is growing at €17 million every hour. In 2007 it was €159 billion euros. The trade deficit is focussed in office and telecom equipment, textiles and light manufacturing. The trade deficit reflects a huge shift within the economies of Asia to focus production in China. Although imports from China have surged, Asia's share of total EU imports has increased only very moderately by 10% over the last decade. But the deficit still reflects the considerable problems EU businesses have accessing the Chinese market.

China is the biggest target of trade defence investigations in the EU. The EU currently has 45 definitive and 3 provisional anti-dumping measures in force against Chinese imports. These cover less than 2% of Chinese trade.

European companies invested €1,8 billion in China in 2007 (down from €6,2 billion in 2006). China invested € 2,2 billion in Europe in 2006 and withdraw investments worth approximately € 0,1 billion in Europe in 2005

European services companies find it very difficult to break into the Chinese market and are often discriminated against. Although China has signed agreements to open its market, since 2001 it has granted 22000 telecoms licenses in China and only eleven have gone to foreign companies. China maintains investment and ownership caps in many sectors such as banking, construction and telecommunications. Foreign law firms in China are not allowed to employ Chinese lawyers and are not permitted to participate in bar exams to gain Chinese qualifications.

Source: European Commission, 2008

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